Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Club: Looking for Alaska

In Looking for Alaska by John Green, loner Miles convinces his parents to send him to a boarding school in Alabama--Culver Creek. Once there, Miles instantly makes friends, but not the ones he ever expected. The Colonel, Alaska, and Takumi re-name him "Pudge" and teach him the ways of Culver Creek life, constantly getting in and out of trouble with teachers and other students alike. The newly-deemed Pudge quickly becomes an integral part of the group and starts to fall for Alaska, and the rest of the story is in the book.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a little weird. I haven't read any contemporary books set in a boarding school in America, so I have very little idea of how that setting is usually included. I like Miles, the Colonel, and Takumi, but I'm on the fence about Alaska. I guess she's just like any other attractive, teenage girl who hangs out with a group of guys.

Conclusion: I liked this, but I didn't love it. Parts of it were very meaningful...others, not so much. The characters in Looking for Alaska felt realistic to me, so that helped me to enjoy the book (while also providing frustration in a few key parts). Green's main characters stood apart from the others, as main characters should, but they were flawed. He wrote about human characters, not forces of nature, which is an important distinction to remember when you're reading this book. A few members of my book club thought certain characters shouldn't have acted as they did, but the characters' actions were true to their personalities. That being said, Alaska never really grew on me. I liked her better by the end, but she was a difficult character for me to actually admire. This book is defined by the climax in the middle of the story. I think most people who read it will pick half of the book as "the most important half." For me, it was the first half. The second half had its moments, though, not the least of which is Miles's essay at the end. It kept a personal connection between the main character and me up until the very end. Side note: I was very fascinated by Miles's obsession with last words. It's something I've never thought about, and now I find myself wanting to know the last words of all my favorite authors and figures in history. Green has definitely encouraged me to try something new, which I always appreciate. All in all, this was a good book. Not my favorite by John Green, but I didn't really expect it to beat The Fault in Our Stars, so I'm not disappointed.

Let me know what you think if you read this, and keep checking back for more great reads!

Monday, June 23, 2014

In Honor Of My Teachers

I've been taking a little break from my computer, as you can tell. I guess it's been about a month, which seems kind of crazy considering how much I'm usually online. That hasn't stopped me from reading, though, so there are some posts on the way. Meanwhile, I'm writing about something else: Two of my favorite teachers retired this year! It is unlikely that either of them will ever see this post, but I want to say a little something about each of them. The more I think about it, though, the less capable I feel of explaining how much they mean to me and what all I have learned from them. So, my solution is to tell you what they taught and name some books and authors to which they introduced me (links from Goodreads). Perhaps that will be enough to leave a lasting impression.

First off, my high school speech and debate coach, who we'll call Mrs. W.
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
A Piece of My Heart by Keith Walker
Dave Barry

Secondly, Dr. T, who taught a couple of my literature classes my junior year of college, as well as an advanced composition class my senior year.
The Iliad
The Odyssey
Confessions of St. Augustine 
Virginia Woolf
The Analects
James Joyce
They Say/I Say by Gerald Graff and Kathy Birkenstein
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

These are just a few of the multitudes of literary masterpieces and authors that I have gleaned from these women, but those stood out to me right now. If there are some you haven't read, I encourage you to pick them up and think of how much inspiration has been passed to others using these works. Thanks for reading, guys! I know I disappear from time to time, but I promise to let you know if I ever decide to leave for good, so keep sticking with me! Book reviews to come!